Homeland Security activates new terror warning level

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Feds Revamp Homeland Security Alert System.

The Obama administration is bolstering aviation security, tightening screening for visa and refugee applications and adding a third level of terrorism warnings to provide more information to a nation fearful of attacks by extremists. The Department of Homeland Security is revamping its system for issuing alerts about terrorism threats out of concern that the current system doesn’t tell the public enough about the type of danger posed by self-radicalized suspects and others. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that the U.S. is on a “heightened state of readiness” in the wake of the broadening fight against Islamic State and the threat of “self-radicalized” lone wolf terrorists striking on American soil. Johnson issued a threat “bulletin,” a new intermediate step for the National Terrorism Advisory System, that reflects “general developments or trends for threats” but doesn’t indicate an imminent threat.

The new alert, which will be in place for six months, summarizes the threat, outlines the government response and recommends ways the public can assist in counterterrorism efforts. “We know of no intelligence that is both specific and credible at this time,” Johnson said at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national response coordination center in Washington. “We urge the public to continue to travel, attend public events and freely associate with others but be aware of surroundings.” He gave no details about tightened aviation security, saying guidance would be forthcoming. MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA The present system, started in 2010, employs two levels — “elevated,” to warn of a reputable threat, & “imminent,” to bid notice of a selected impending threat.

Johnson said there would be more scrutiny of visa applicants and that DHS had already been looking at social media in immigration investigations, though the policies that had been in place have been too restrictive. Johnson spoke as the nation is on edge following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by a man and woman who pledged support to Islamic State. In a sign of the anxiety and confusion about terrorism risks, Los Angeles on Tuesday closed all its schools after it received a threat that it later determined to be a hoax.

New York City received the same threat and elected to keep its schools open. “What we are concerned about here in the homeland is copycat-style attacks,” Johnson said. “Regrettably we have seen that in recent months and recent weeks.” Homeland security officials said they have been working on changing the alert system for months, though recent attacks like shootings in Paris and San Bernardino underscore the need for changes to the system.

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